Doctor Diesel

Hooked on the Sportage

Dear Doc,


I am now on my fifth Kia Sportage, a new model level 3 1.7 CRDi 2WD, on an 18 plate. All of them have been brilliant, regularly long hauling copious quantities of wine and beer back from Germany. 


With regard to traffic lights, you have really touched on a nerve with me, and my wife has to endure frequent rants about the infernal things. They seem to be springing up like weeds everywhere at hundreds of thousands of pounds each, I’m sure. Any amount of money seems available for them, while the demon potholes remain unfixed. I believe that many are not even necessary, because they only serve minor junctions. Many are badly phased and cause long queues, resulting in massive additional pollution. The main route through the centre of Burton-on-Trent has seven sets in less than half a mile, causing absolute chaos at peak times. Many lights at islands are badly phased and often totally unnecessary.


I recall two ideas from continental Europe which donít appear to have been even tried here. One is flashing amber lights at quiet times, which encourages care, and prevents long waits at 10pm, when nothing is coming from the other directions. The other was an experiment, I believe in the Netherlands, in which they did away with many altogether, allowing drivers to sort it out, which resulted in freer flowing traffic. I do remember the rubber bumps which seemed to work well. Now we (not me, I hasten to say) have the technology to watch television on a watch, but we canít phase traffic lights in an intelligent way using modern technology. Here endeth yet another traffic lights rant. 


Yours sincerely,

Alan Bradley


Many thanks for your letter Alan, and your support in my ranting about traffic lights. You are totally on my wavelength! I don’t have space to go into detail in my “Doc Debate”, but it’s essentially, as you point out, all about the questionable use of best technology for trivial things and gimmicky (usually costly) luxury items, compared with the utter disregard for the potential for technology to transform our so-called “traffic management” systems. 


As you say, the answer to a traffic problem is too often to stick up another set of traffic lights ñ which will have minimal technology. How many years will it be before they use LED lighting and compact electronics, perhaps with solar power even? Why no “intelligent managementî that responds to traffic flow, and maybe stays on green for continuous traffic flow until a car approaches from the other direction? It doesn’t take me ten minutes to think of at least ten ways to improve traffic light technology, so why isn’t somebody, somewhere, a lot smarter than me being allowed to give some input to the relevant authorities. And what about the Transport Minister maybe getting involved? Don’t make me laugh! It almost makes me want to cry, it is all so pathetic! 


Best regards, 

The Doc


P.S. Congratulations on sticking with a car model that you like, and that has continued to please you. I shall use your praise for the Sportage as wholehearted support for the virtues of the car and recommend it to anyone who is looking for that kind of vehicle. You will have enjoyed the evolution of the Sportage, over the years, no doubt. Imagine if traffic lights had improved as much as the Sportage, over the same period of time!


The Doc

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